Bells are ringing

A bout 30 years ago, a family in the southern United States restored a farm house. One little detail of the restoration was a cast iron bell mounted on a post by the kitchen, which was detached from the house. Usually, the rope to pull the bell was tied up out of reach of young hands, but one day at about 2 o'clock in the afternoon a visiting child found the rope dangling within his reach. Gleefully, he pulled it repeatedly, causing a continuous pealing of the bell. The elderly woman who lived in the house rushed out and stopped him. Appearing greatly concerned over the incident, she said she hoped that no one gave any notice to the ringing of the bell.

But some did hear it, and they responded as she thought they would. An elderly man drove his truck down the little lane and stopping in front of the house, called out, "What's the matter? Is anybody hurt?" An elderly woman who lived down road came up to the old house. "I heard the bell," she said. "What's wrong?" A man well past 70 who had been working on a neighboring farm rushed as quickly as he could across an open field to offer his assistance in the apparent emergency.The woman at the farm house assurred her neighbors that nothing was wrong. The would-be rescuers left amid her expressions of gratitude for their concern. They all laughed and commented about how deeply ingrained were "the old ways."

This incident took place three decades ago, when older residents in that farming community knew that, ordinarily, bells on farms were rung three times a day: to call family and farm hands to breakfast, dinner and supper. A bell being rung continuously at any other time was regarded as an alarm, a summons for help. All who heard it would stop what they were doing and rush toward sound of the bell.

Two main factors made the old-fashioned alarm work. One was the willingness of the person who needed help to ring the bell. The other was the ability of those who heard it to discern it as a call for help and then respond.

We might ask, even cry out, for help in many situations. If we were about to drown, certainly, we would call out to a lifeguard or someone to rescue us. If our house were burning, we would call for fire fighters. If a child - our own or one in our care - wandered away and became lost we would call on neighbors, friends, relatives, police officers and anyone else available to help us find him.

However, many among us refuse to "ring the bell" when they need help, either out of pride, embarrassment or feelings of inadequacy.

If they would "ring the bell," they would find there are many ready to come to their aid. Home teachers and visiting teachers; bishops and branch presidents; stake, mission and district leaders; Relief Society presidents and their counselors; and members of priesthood quorums and groups are among those who willingly step forth to offer help in times of need. Others also will help: friends, relatives, classmates, neighbors, colleagues at work, to name a few.

Unfortunately, not everyone who needs help will ask for it, or has the ability to verbalize the need. This is one reason why we must be attuned. In the account of the young boy ringing the bell, many of the older residents did respond as if it were an alarm, but people of younger generations, trained to telephone the local fire department or to dial 9-1-1 in an emergency, had no idea that in bygone days a bell at 2 o'clock in the afternoon was a summons for help.

Bells are ringing all around us. People everywhere have problems or troubles of one sort or another. Are we attuned to the alarm being sounded?

As with the people of Alma's day, we have an obligation to help bear each other's burdens:

"And it came to pass that [Alma] said unto them: behold, here are the waters of Mormon . . . and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and be called his people, and are willing to bear one another's burdens, that they may be light;

"Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, . . .

"Now . . . if this be the desire of your hearts, what have ye against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?" (Mosiah 18:8-10.)

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